"China's power is on the rise."
"India's capability worries the west."
If I ask 'What's Britain's golden age?'
What's your first response?
If you ask most people that question, they'll respond with misplaced nostalgia.
Considering the torrent of historical novels from the last 10 years making headlines and winning prizes, you'd see that nostalgia as generalized.
Considering the front page of the Daily Mail on July 22nd this year that featured The Bakelock Murder and a picture of a Victorian policeman juxtaposed with the headline NET PORN BLOCKED IN EVERY HOME, you'd not be at fault for thinking that nostalgia went back two hundred years.
Considering this years introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees meaning that most now have to pay to even begin the process of employment tribunals, you'd be forgiven for thinking there's trouble up t'mill.
Considering David Cameron's speech of October 10th, 2012, at the Conservative Party Conference, you'd be exactly right to presume it's outright Victorian [in all senses of the word].
We are not, nor were we ever, a benevolent empire.
We were conquerors and plunderers.
We must be wary lest we become so again.
Few could have claimed to have actually wanted to help other countries in the Victorian era - loners, the mad, the oppressed, the missionaries, perhaps - and few could have claimed to have known of the atrocities committed in the name of 'Great Britain' then and few can claim to definitely know now.
This appeal to the notion of Britain as Great, the remaining considerations of Empire as existent in spirit, and the desire to return to it are not only a cancer in the body Britain but a cloak bending the commodified light around the truth.
The truth is too many of us want a return to Victorian Values - those touted by Margaret Thatcher and echoed by her political descendants.
The whole truth is, nostalgia's the enemy.
Let's steal back the light and the truth, shall we?
Here are some fine examples of the light being bent around it:
- The Tax Payers Alliance recommendations?
The TPA [or as I like to think of them, the T.P, the Tee Pee, or the Toilet Paper] have recommended that anyone on benefits should have to work at whatever they say so that those in need then get their money after a 'bloody good sweat, what? EH? Who's with us? HMM? We'll show those workshy, I say.' Smacks to me of 'They deserve to go to the workhouse, they're work-shy so put 'em to work and it'll fix 'em.' As you can imagine, this wonderfully ill-thought out 'recommendation' from this truly brilliant 'think tank' will take a whole other article to pick apart so I'll be revisiting this.
- Theresa May [or Tessy Lay, as I like to call her] has had knee jerk reactions and unnecessarily staunch positions regarding the stimulant Khat and immigration. Victorian enthusiasts would argue that the Victorian era was one of great expansion and freedoms with the middle classes surging, what they won't tell you was that this too was the era in which more and more substances became illegal and widespread opinion on both stimulants and countries came from the news, the news that was often fed by political will. I'll be revisiting these too.
- Ian Duncan Smith [or Ian Buncum Smith (a.k.a. I.B.S. - he is rather irritable, after all) as I like to call him] introduced the Universal Credit system and Benefit Cap in 2013 thus increasing the usage of parlance such as 'the undeserving poor', a phrase which was first popularized when? You guessed it, the Victorian era. All of these points are but small examples of the issues I'll be revisiting, IBS will definitely be chewed out again.
If I ask 'What's Britain's golden age?'
Shouldn't we always be answering 'now'?
Shouldn't we always be struggling to ensure that everyone can say 'now'?
We are still Victorian in Britain.
The statements about China and India at the beginning of this article are taken from a magazine published in the same week that my debut novel, Purefinder, is set - April, 1858.
We are still too conservative in Britain and must face up to the fact before we can become anything else.
Ben Gwalchmai's debut novel Purefinder, set in 1858, will be released on December 13th, 2013.